How To Install A Tonneau Cover On Ford F150?

Pickup trucks like the Ford F150 are popular for their cargo carrying capability. However, the open truck bed leaves your gear exposed and unprotected from the elements. A tonneau cover offers the perfect solution by providing a protective barrier over the truck bed.

Installing a tonneau cover on your Ford F150 is a straightforward process that you can easily accomplish yourself in a few hours. With the right preparations and following the step-by-step instructions, you’ll have a tonneau cover installed and ready to secure your cargo in no time.

What Is A Tonneau Cover And Why Do You Need It?

A tonneau cover, also called a truck bed cover, is a sturdy, hard or soft cover that fits over the truck bed. It protects the cargo from weather damage, theft, and grime that would otherwise accumulate in an open truck bed.

Here are some of the key benefits of adding a tonneau cover:

  • Keeps cargo secure – With a tonneau cover enclosing the truck bed, you can comfortably transport tools, camping gear, groceries and other cargo without worrying about them falling or flying out.
  • Protection from weather – A hard tonneau cover shields your cargo from rain, snow, wind, and other elements. Even soft covers offer decent weather resistance.
  • Enhanced fuel economy – The aerodynamic profile of a tonneau cover reduces drag and turbulence, improving gas mileage by up to 10-15%.
  • Greater storage versatility – With enclosed storage space, you can transport a wider variety of items securely.
  • Added security – The lockable cover deters thieves and keeps your cargo out of sight.
  • Improved aesthetics – Tonneau covers provide a finished look that complements your truck’s styling.

Choosing The Right Tonneau Cover

Ford offers OEM tonneau covers custom designed to fit F150 models, but you can find plenty of aftermarket options too. Consider the following when picking the right tonneau cover:

  • Material – Hard covers made of aluminum, fiberglass or ABS plastic offer maximum durability and security. Vinyl and canvas soft covers are more affordable but less sturdy.
  • Type – Common options include hinged/folding, retractable, snap, and roll-up covers. Assess their opening/closing ease and cargo accessibility.
  • Mounting – Some tonneaus clamp onto the side rails while others bolt through the truck bed for a more secure mount.
  • Added features – Look for tonneaus with useful extras like built-in storage compartments, racks, lighting or dual-stage opening.
  • Color – Pick a color that matches or complements your truck’s paintwork.
  • Price – Hard covers range from $500-$2000+ while soft versions start around $200. Set a budget but don’t compromise on quality and durability.

How To Install A Retractable Tonneau Cover

Retractable tonneau covers roll up and stow away at the front of the bed. The low-profile housing preserves full bed access without removing the cover. Electric versions retract at the touch of a button but manual ones work just fine. Here is a step-by-step guide to installing a manual retractable tonneau on your Ford F150:

Step 1 – Position the Canister

The canister houses the rolled-up portion of the cover. Place it at the front of the bed against the cab. It may either sit on top of or replace the box rail depending on the specific model. Consult the instruction manual and test fit the canister to verify.

Step 2 – Install the Rails

With the canister in place, install the aluminum side rails onto the top of the truck bed. Use C-clamps to hold the rails in place as you drill through the pre-marked holes. Secure the rails with the provided screws, washers and rubber strips.

Step 3 – Attach the Clamps

The cover attaches to the rails via clamps on both sides. Apply the adhesive foam gaskets to the clamps if your tonneau didn’t come with pre-attached ones. Position the clamps along the rails as specified by the manufacturer and tighten them down evenly on both sides.

Step 4 – Insert the Drain Tubes

This step prevents water from pooling on the cover. Insert the provided drain tubes into the pre-drilled holes near the canister. Make sure they fit snugly and direct water out the back of the bed.

Step 5 – Mount the Roll Bar

The roll bar with rotating arms connects to the canister. Attach it as directed and tighten it down securely. This allows you to roll up the cover effortlessly.

Step 6 – Unroll the Cover

Unwrap the tonneau cover and carefully unroll it over the rails. Ensure it unrolls evenly on both sides to prevent jamming. The Velcro strips on the underside will stick onto the rail surface to hold it in place.

Step 7 – Attach and Adjust the Cover

With the cover unrolled, press the Velcro firmly onto the rails to secure it. Attach the rear bar and tension adjusters. Tighten the tension knobs evenly on both sides until the cover sits flat with no sagging.

Step 8 – Test for Proper Operation

Once installed, test the cover to ensure smooth rolling action. Roll it up and down a few times to verify proper retracting function. Make any tension adjustments needed until operation is smooth. Your retractable tonneau is now ready for use!

How To Install A Tri-fold Tonneau Cover

Tri-fold covers have a convenient accordion-style folding design that provides easy access to the entire bed without removing the cover. Installation requires simple hand tools and can be accomplished in about an hour. Here are the key steps:

Step 1 – Position the Canister

The canister housing the folded cover sits at the front of the bed. Set it in place and use C-clamps to hold it there temporarily. Ensure it sits squarely against the cab.

Step 2 – Attach the Canister

Once correctly positioned, drill through the canister’s pre-marked holes into the underlying bed. Bolt it down securely using the provided hardware.

Step 3 – Install the Side Rails

With the canister mounted, set the side rails in place. Use C-clamps to hold them in position as you drill through the pre-drilled holes into the bed. Attach using the included bolts/washers.

Step 4 – Attach the Clamps

All along the rails, attach the cover clamps and tighten them down. Ensure they sit squarely and are evenly spaced.

Step 5 – Unfold the Cover

Unwrap the vinyl cover and unfold it over the bed, draping it over the side rails. The Velcro strips will temporarily hold it in place.

Step 6 – Attach the Cover

Working from the middle outwards, peel the Velcro strips and press them firmly onto the rail to adhere the cover. Go over all the adhesive strips to secure it.

Step 7 – Install Drain Tubes

Pop in the drain tubes provided into the pre-drilled holes near the canister. This allows water runoff to exit from the back of the bed.

Step 8 – Test Operation

Open and close the cover a few times to test the folding/unfolding mechanism. The panels should fold smoothly. Make any adjustments needed until operation is optimum.

Maintaining Your Ford F150 Tonneau Cover

Once installed, just follow these simple maintenance tips to get the longest life from your tonneau cover:

  • Periodically clean the cover using a mild soap and water solution or vinyl/rubber cleaner to prevent buildup of dirt and debris.
  • Inspect the cover and mounting hardware regularly. Retighten any loose clamps or bolts.
  • Use protectant sprays/sealants to keep vinyl covers pliable and prevent cracking.
  • Never drive with the cover rolled up or folded open. The flapping can damage the hinges and cover fabric.
  • When hauling tall cargo, ensure adequate clearance between the roof and cover to avoid tearing or dislodging it.
  • Don’t overload the cover. It’s designed to shield regular cargo, not heavy equipment or unusually tall loads.
  • Check the manufacturer’s care instructions for any model-specific maintenance tips.

With basic care and preventative maintenance, an F150 tonneau cover will provide years of reliable service. Investing in a quality cover from reputed brands also ensures maximum durability.

Helpful Tips For Hassle-Free Installation

Installing a tonneau cover is well within the DIY capabilities of any truck owner. However, here are some useful tips to make the process easier:

  • Read the installation instructions fully before beginning. Also, watch online videos for your specific cover model.
  • Have an assistant help with lifting and holding the cover in place while attaching.
  • Work on a flat, spacious area like a garage floor to spread out parts and tools.
  • Use painter’s tape instead of unwieldy C-clamps to temporarily hold the rails and canister.
  • Pre-fit all components prior to drilling holes or attaching anything permanently.
  • Use thread lock adhesive on the cover mounting bolts to prevent loosening over time.
  • Drill holes slowly with firm pressure. Rushing can cause the drill bit to skip off the bed.
  • Have touch-up paint ready to cover any drill scrapes on the bed rails.
  • Tighten all clamps and tension knobs incrementally and evenly on both sides.
  • Check every few months that mounting hardware remains securely fastened.

With some preparation and care, installing a tonneau cover requires only basic tools and DIY skills. Following the instructions closely coupled with these handy tips will enable smooth, trouble-free installation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will installing a tonneau cover affect my truck’s fuel economy?

A: Yes, tonneau covers can improve gas mileage by 8-10% or more. The aerodynamic profile decreases drag and turbulence for better efficiency. Hard covers perform slightly better than soft versions.

Q: Can I install a tonneau myself or do I need professional help?

A: DIY tonneau cover installation is totally feasible if you’re mechanically inclined. The process involves basic tools and straightforward instructions. Seek professional installation if you’re unsure.

Q: How are soft tonneau covers secured?

A: Soft vinyl and canvas covers attach via a Velcro strip around the perimeter that adheres onto the bed rails. They roll or fold up for access. Some also have snaps or zippers.

Q: Will a tonneau cover limit bed access?

A: It depends on the type. Retractable and folding covers allow full access. Hinged lids may restrict access unless you remove them. Assess your usage needs when choosing a cover.

Q: Are tonneau covers universal or truck-specific?

A: Most tonneaus are model-specific. Custom-fit covers contour perfectly to the bed and install more easily. Some universal options with adjustable brackets are available.

Q: Can I keep my bed liner if I install a tonneau?

A: Yes, you can often install a tonneau over an existing spray-in liner. The cover rail brackets simply need longer screws. But soft covers may not adhere properly.

Q: Will a hard tonneau cover stand up to heavy cargo?

A: Quality fiberglass or aluminum hard covers are remarkably tough. They can handle several hundred pounds easily. But avoid dragging heavy objects over the cover surface.

Q: How do I clean and care for my tonneau cover?

A: Use soap and water for hard covers. For vinyl soft covers, use vinyl cleaners and conditioners. Read the manufacturer’s care guide. Inspect covers periodically for damage.

Q: Will a tonneau cover drain my truck’s battery?

A: Electric retractable tonneaus draw minimal power and won’t significantly impact battery life. Use a trickle charger if parked for extended periods to be safe.

Installing a tonneau cover upgrades your Ford F150’s utility and protection. With the right choice of cover and following the step-by-step installation guide, you can easily add this useful accessory to your truck bed. Drive protected!


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